Reducing Injury for Stairway Falls

Reducing Falls on Stairs with FYZICAL

A review of stairway falls and stair negotiation: Lessons learned and future needs to reduce injury.

Quarterly Case Study


In summary, these studies demonstrate that the muscle, force, and movement patterns of stair negotiation differ from level walking and that stair negotiation increases the muscle, force and movement demands on the knee and ankle compared to level walking. The coordination of the head is also altered, such that stair descent renders increased sagittal head and neck excursions and a more synchronized in-phase coordination with the trunk compared to stair ascent or level walking.


Stairways are a common location for falls, and the result is a disproportionate risk of death or severe injury. Environmental concerns regarding stair dimensions and visual conditions have been evaluated for stair negotiation by older adults. These studies imply that current stair design does not offer an optimal universal design to meet the needs of older adults or people with health conditions


The circumstances of stairway falls often include engagement in risky behaviors, such as using stairs laden with objects, carrying items on stairs, using stairs in stocking feet, and not using a handrail.


Environmental or person-focused interventions that promote behavioral change to limit hazardous activities on stairs are likely to prevent falls or engender less severe consequences when a fall does occur.

Source: Jacobs, J. V. (n.d.). A review of stairway falls and stair negotiation: Lessons learned and future needs to reduce injury. Center for Physical Ergonomics, Liberty Mutual Research Institute for Safety, 71 Frankland Road, Hopkinton, MA, 01748, USA

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